Appealing exam results
In general, an exam decision may be annulled if procedural rules have been infringed. Thus, if an error was made during your exam, you may entitle you to retake the exam. However, this only applies if an influence of the error on the exam cannot be excluded. If, for example, you would not have passed an exam even if you had been given all points for an incorrectly set assignment, the error could not have had any effect on your passing or failing of the exam. The burden of proof that a procedural error had no effect on the outcome of the exam lies with the examining authority.
The examiner has a certain margin of discretion within which a judicial review is not possible. Therefore, you may apply for an internal administrative review, a procedure where you give the examiner the opportunity to reconsider their decision based on concrete objections – this is usually done within the context of reviewing the exam files. Unless there were obvious formal errors, such as incorrectly added up points, you cannot receive a lower grade. Only the individual scores that have been objected to are reviewed.
Exam rulings are administrative acts. The main legal tool against them is an appeal. Appeals are submitted to the responsible appeal authority, usually your board of examiners (Prüfungsausschuss). The appeal must be submitted in writing and must state the reasons for the appeal. The deadline is usually one month but may be extended to one year if no or incorrect information on the right of appeal has been provided. The board of examiners will decide on your appeal in a timely manner. If your appeal is not successful, you can challenge the decision before the Administrative Court. If you do not know how or to whom you must address your appeal, your student council or the AStA will help you.
In court, it is only possible to examine whether, for example, the exam proceedings are burdened by significant errors, generally accepted valuation principles were not observed, or arbitrariness exists. Proceeding before the Administrative Court usually take a long time. Especially if an exam has been definitively failed, a procedure for the issuance of a temporary injunction should be filed at the same time so you can continue your studies.
During an appeal procedure, costs are only incurred if legal council is requested. The costs appeal and the expedited procedure are essentially determined by the lawyer’s fee which depends on the lawyer chosen, the value disputed, the effort involved, etc. Consulting with an attorney usually incurs fees, but the AStA regularly offers free consultation with an attorney for RWTH students.
Please note that an existing legal expenses insurance may not cover administrative, and in particular exam, law.
In the event of a successful challenge to the examination, the court will determine how the identified deficiency is to be remedied. In most cases, the exam must be retaken. If the appeal is successful, this decision only applies to your case.
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